1 star

Historical Romance Review: Captive Melody by Nadine Crenshaw

Captive Melody, Nadine Crenshaw, Zebra, 1989, Aleta Jenks cover art

***Welcome Blue Falcon to SweetSavageFlame.com, who will be contributing his great reviews to this site. Here, in his first review, he analyzes Captive Melody by Nadine Crenshaw***

1 star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

This review is of Captive Melody, a standalone Zebra from January 1989 by Nadine Crenshaw.

The Plot

The book starts in July 1876, Northern California. A young wife, Ling Kee (I’m writing her name in the traditional Chinese way, last name first), is brutally attacked by three “men”; among them is Richard Laird, a rancher. After being beaten and raped, Ling Kee commits suicide.

Fast forward five years. Laird has just married Laura Upton, the heroine of the book. Their marriage won’t last, however, as on their wedding night, Laura is kidnapped by Andre Sheridan, the hero of the book and Ling Kee’s husband. Andre plans to hold Laura as bait to draw Richard to Andre’s home and kill him.

As Andre takes Laura further away from Laird, they become attracted to each other, later acting on that attraction. Andre later takes Laura to one of his homes-he is quite wealthy-and their relationship deepens. One person not happy about this is Ling Soo, Andre’s housekeeper and Ling Kee’s father, who tries to break up their relationship.

After some time together, Andre sends Laura back to Laird. Big mistake. He tries to rape Laura and beats her brutally. Laurea leaves Laird-say that three times quickly-and gets a job in a pharmacy. She also discovers she’s pregnant with Andre’s baby and obtains another suitor, Yale Talbot,

Andre finds Laura after a long search, and breaks up her relationship with Talbot. Andre then compels Laura to marry him. They are happy for a while-Laura is pregnant-but then Laird shows up again. A violent confrontation takes place between Andre and Laird, and Laird is killed, not by Andre, but by Laura.

In the end, Laura becomes a famous concert pianist-fulling a dream her stepmother had for her-and Laura, Andre and their daughter have their Happily Ever After.

Opinion

Upside: The fact that I finished it, which was accomplished only by speed reading and skimming; the reasons are explained below.

Downside: Captive Melody contains two tropes I HATE in books: revenge by proxy and Stockholm Syndrome. They’re both here, and they’re both terrible.

Question: Why do “heroes” in these books go after defenseless, innocent women? The answer: they’re really cowards. Going after a man requires emotional, financial, mental and physical strength. There is also the possibility that the “hero”could get killed. Going after a woman: most of those things are much less likely to happen, especially when the woman is an oatmeal, milquetoast heroine like Laura Upton.

Andre is, to put it simply, an abusive, arrogant, brutal, egotistical, possessive, predatory, self-centered, uncaring, unfeeling bastard. There are no redeeming qualities about him whatsoever.

Now, for an equal opportunity unloading on Laura, who is the dumbest romance novel heroine I’ve read since Eugenia Scott in Cassie Edwards’ putrid Eugenia’s Embrace. To be fair to her, she has been abused her entire life, first by her stepmother, then by Laird, then by Andre, then Yale, and finally back to Andre. (To be fair, Andre doesn’t physically strike Laura-big whoop-but every other action toward Laura is abusive). She has all the personality of white bread and similar intelligence.

Sex: One really good love scene, and there are others, but the scene is dampened by the fact that Andre manipulated Laura into having sex with him, then used her lust for him to coerce more sexual favors as the book goes on.

Violence: When Laura goes back to Laird, he brutally beats her. Later, Andre and Laird have their confrontation; which is violent, before Laura shoots and kills Laird. The first scene is somewhat graphic; the latter is not.

Final Analysis of Captive Melody

Bottom Line: If it were possible to give less than one star to a book, Captive Melody would be the one. I’m not going to say “I’ll never read another book by” this author, Ms. Crenshaw, but Captive Melody certainly doesn’t inspire any enthusiasm for any books I’ll read by her in the future. 

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